Is Your Company Leading the Pack?

Is Your Company Leading the Pack?

Where does your company stand when it comes to technology use? If your answer to that question is “We’ve used a drone to take aerial photos,” then there could be a problem. If your response is more a long the lines of “We’ve used a drone to conduct 3D mapping, geotagging, thermal imaging, and material integrity scanning,” then your company could very well be taking things to the next level.

If you want to know how your construction company compares to other companies across the nation in terms of forward-thinking technology adoption, responses from almost 3,000 firms in the Construction Technology Survey can serve as a baseline. The report, released late last year, was a comprehensive benchmarking of construction industry technology adoption. It was compiled by JBKnowledge in partnership with national organizations like the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), and the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), and others.

The majority of the respondents were general contractors and subcontractors. Additional responders included engineering, architectural, construction services, design-build firms, and others. A large chunk of the companies that responded (40.4%) have been in business for over 50 years. About a quarter of the companies (26.4%) were from the Midwest region.

 

Information Technology (IT) Strategy & Budgeting

About half (48.5%) of companies now have their own dedicated IT department, with between 1-15 people in most cases. A third of firms (30.7%) outsource a portion of their IT. The rest have either staff members on the job but not a whole department, or they fully outsource all of their IT.

The majority of companies (46%) are spending less than 1% of their annual sales volume on IT. Nearly half of companies (41.3%) are not billing IT expenditures to their projects. This indicates the construction industry is lagging behind most other industries where IT spending/billing is higher. In general, IT spending forecasted to grow (Gartner), making the construction industry even further behind in this area.

 

Security

Most companies (77.8%) said they have not had a data breach in the last year – that they’re aware of, anyway. The report warned companies not to be too overconfident on that figure because many employees may not know about existing threats. For example, a 2018 study from the Ponemon Institute and IBM found that it usually takes about 197 days to detect a breach.

The two most popular methods for securing cloud data were employee training and mobile device management, which authors said was good because they both influence user behavior. 2-Factor Authentication was recommended as an effective way to prevent log-in breaches. Also, restricting the use of personal devices at work was recommended to preserve professional data.

 

Most Companies Are Using BIM

Building information modeling (BIM) can facilitate greater collaboration between architects, engineers, and builders and provide a lot of insight about their projects, but many contractors have still not started using it. About a third of companies (27.9%) do not bid on projects involving BIM. The report looked into some of the reasons behind this and said the biggest challenge for companies is finding qualified BIM staff. Another big challenge is getting all project participants on board with BIM, which could be directly related to the staffing challenge.

On the flip side, half of companies (46%) either have a BIM department or have one or two staff members that can work with BIM. Most companies are using the software for team coordination, visualization, and project planning. General contractors are the ones taking the lead on BIM across most projects (46.2% of the time) followed by architects (17.7%) and mechanical contractors (14.2%).

 

Fewer Drones than You’d Expect

With numerous reports on how drones can positively impact profitability and their frequent mention by contractors as the number-one emerging technology in construction, one would assume more companies would actually be using them. According to the survey, just over a third of companies (37.5%) are using drones on projects and almost two-thirds (58.9%) are not.

This is projected to change as more companies come to understand the benefits to things like safety, efficiency, and even marketing. Also, third-party providers are on the rise, which will help to offset a lack of skilled drone operators in construction.

 

The Biggest Limitations

The biggest limitation construction companies say they encounter when adopting new technology is a lack of staff that can support its use, followed closely by budget constraints.

Beyond those two factors, another big thing holding the construction industry back from innovation is hesitation. Responders to the survey said employee hesitance (33.8%) and management hesitance (30.1%) were the third and fourth most-limiting factors for adopting new tech. This lack of confidence appears to be correlated with a sentiment held by many responders (42.1%) that new technologies will not give their companies a strategic advantage. The irony here is that many companies don’t see their competitors using new tech, so they don’t make a case for using it either. It’s a bit self-perpetuating, and many are taking a “wait and see” mindset.

 

Mobile Apps Preferred by Contractors

Smartphones were overwhelmingly (92.8%) used on a daily basis by contractors, followed by laptops (79.7%) and tablets (62.1%). There was also a breakdown of the most commonly used mobile apps that were categorized by task.

Top Daily Report / Plan Management Apps:

  • Bluebeam®
  • Procore®
  • PlainGrid®

Top Time Management Apps

  • Procore®
  • Viewpoint® Field Time
  • HCSS

Top Safety Management Apps

  • Procore®
  • Bluebeam®
  • Safety Reports

Top BIM File Viewers

  • Bluebeam®
  • Navisworks® (Autodesk®)
  • BIM 360™ Glue® (Autodesk®)

Top Tool Tracking Apps

  • ToolWatch®
  • Hilti ON!Track
  • ONE-KEY™

 

Preferred Software

On the subject of software used for estimating and bidding, there were no clear winners in terms of a preferred package. It seems that construction companies have held firm to their individual styles and self-developed processes for estimating and bids. The same was true for project management software. As the report’s authors said, “Contractors stick to the processes they’ve customized.”

The opposite was true for scheduling and CRM software, which did have clear results on what companies prefer. Most companies are using Microsoft® Project or Primavera P6 for project scheduling and Cosential® as their preferred CRM program.

Common file storage sites such as DropBox, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Google Drive were the most preferred options for collaboration and storing/sharing of files.

 

Profits to be Had

Overall, it appears that some companies are doing a great job maximizing the potential of new technologies and others are still unsure about how it can make a difference for their business. Now that you know a bit more about how your company compares to others across the country, you can start developing ways to improve.

Just about every topic mentioned in this survey can elevate a contractor’s bottom line in one way or another as long as companies have a willingness to put them to good use. In that regard, the hesitancy of your competitors can be an advantage for your firm. Be the first to be innovative and you’ll be the first to claim the rewards.

Category Cover Story, Features